Little ears?? LITTLE? EARS?… this is a cooking blog, what on earth have ears got to do with anything? Well let me enlighten you my dear friends and foodies…
In a previous post I mentioned how every region of Italy has it’s own specific food and flavour, well that little morsel of truth also holds true for pasta. I live in the region of Puglia, a southern region nestled in the heel of the boot on the East Coast (see the gastronomically correct maps below).
Although Puglia is famous for it’s wine and olive oil, it’s also famous for it’s little ears, or as the Italian’s call them – Orecchiette. Orecchiette is the traditional pasta of Puglia, so called for its oval shape with a dint in the middle. If you go to any old town in Puglia, especially in the city of Bari (where I currently live) you will find clusters of prune like old ladies huddled around make-shift tables, lovingly squishing their thumbs into tiny discs of fresh pasta. Now of course the best pasta is fresh pasta and although the image of getting lost in Bari Vecchia’s labyrinth of ancient alleyways in search of the culinary magic of Bari’s most experienced pasta squishers is all very romantic, it’s not all that practical on a day-to-day basis… so I cheated a little and bought a pack of dry orecchiette from the supermarket (I know, I know, I should be ashamed of myself).
The only problem with store bought orecchiette is that it takes an age to boil… and by an age I mean about ten minutes.. remember what I said about not boiling pasta for more than ten minutes? Although it’s quite a versatile pasta, most Pugliese locals prefer to cook it in two distinct ways: 1. with Cime di rape, 2. Semplice. We’ll leave the cime di rape for another time as it takes a bit of work, so we’ll start off simple (or semplice…. see what I did there? ; ) ).
So your ingredients (to serve 2) are as follows…
- Olive oil
- Tsp of salt
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 peperoncino (dried chili pepper)
- 250g (half a bag) of Orecchiette pasta
And that’s it, just 5 ingredients to make a pasta dish worthy of a roman emperor.
Now for the instructions:
- Fill a pan with water, add a tsp of salt and bring it to the boil.
- Put a frying pan on medium heat and add a splash of olive oil.
- Chop up the dry chili pepper and the garlic (not fine, just into 2 pieces will do ), then add to the frying pan and let it flavour the oil for a few minutes.
- Add the can of tomatoes to the oil with a smidge of water to loosen up the sauce, let that bubble away for 10 minutes and stir occasionally.
- Put the dry pasta into the water and let it boil for 10 minutes.
- Check that your pasta is al dente and drain but REMEMBER TO SAVE THE PASTA WATER!!
- Add the pasta to the sauce (which should have reduced) and stir until the pasta is covered.
- Pour a little of the pasta water into the pan to create a silky, scrumptious sauce that clings to the orecchiette.
- Serve and stuff your face (watch out for the garlic!).
- you can also add a little fresh basil to lighten the sauce if you like
So there you go ladies and gents: Orecchiette Semplice.
Next post: Breaded chicken with Italian spinach
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